City Council begins budget review

By Sheryl Roadcap -

This pie chart shows where general fund expenditures go in the Sidney city budget.

This pie chart shows where general fund expenditures go in the Sidney city budget.

SIDNEY — Sidney City Council began its review of the 2020 budget, Monday night, which proposes total expenditures (minus capital spending) of $53.34 million, including capital outlay and debt service. Next year’s operating budget is about $31.6 million.

Total expenditures are budgeted to be 1.5 percent greater than this year’s total of $52.55 million.

“Direct collections (from corporations) is a volatile source and fluctuate dramatically from year to year. But withholding, which makes up the majority of our income tax collections, is holding steady with last year’s collections to date,” Finance Officer Ginger Adams said when talking about the city’s revenue.

Next year’s operating budget is 6.1 percent greater than the 2019 total of $29.78 million.

Utility fee increases next year are in the 1 to 15 percent range. The average family of four can anticipate a 3.16 percent increase in its monthly utility bill, from $113.77 in 2019 to $117.37 in 2020. Low-volume users may see their bills increase by 2.93 percent, from about $56.50 to $58.15.

Adams said key budget assumptions include:

• Conservative estimate of income tax collections in accordance with financial policies;

• Modest inflation rates;

• Capital and staffing the same as the city’s five-year plan;

• Minimum cash reserves achieved in all funds;

• Wage Scale adjustments of 2.25 percent (except firefighter union members, who are currently in negotiations) and step increases for those not at the top of the scale;

• Health insurance premium increase capped at 6 percent for next year’s renewal.

The city plans to add 7.04 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff next year. This will include three firefighters (with levy passage), IT analyst (with Shelby County cost sharing), separating the assistant city manager and public works positions (upon the retirement of Gary Clough) and a custodian. It also includes a 1.35 FTE to adjust staffing in police communication, revenue collections, and at the Municipal Court; the reinstatement of a seasonal food service supervisor; 0.31 FTE biennial hydrant painting; and all other vacancies that arise, Adams said.

In closing, Adams summarized the 2020 budget with the following goals:

• Continue to monitor for significant changes in revenue, such as income taxes and state-shared revenues.

• Manage significant changes in expenditures.

• Continue to monitor/manage significant capital projects, including:

– About $3.7 million of roadway repairs/reconstructions, with levy passage.

— Design/engineering and construction of fire station No. 3, with levy passage.

– Nearly $1.6 million of sewer plant and sewer distribution system improvements.

– Approximately $1.4 million of water plant and line replacements.

Council also heard budget review presentations on the Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the Sidney Police Department.

Fire Chief Brad Jones told council continued training and education is one of the department’s goals for administration, fire operations and fire prevention. The goal is for each person to obtain about 150 hours of training per year. Members of Sidney Fire typically train an average of 160 to 170 hours per person per year, he said. They also strive to be as healthy and well as possible, which improves productivity and brings injured people back to work quicker.

Responding to emergency calls in a timely manner is a goal of the department, Jones said. Other fire operation goals are to maintain team proficiency, individual skill knowledge and abilities, continue preventative maintenance programs and to partner with local regional organizations to improve proficiency and save money.

From the fire prevention division, he said the goal is perform fire safety inspections at targeted hazard businesses/industries, use records management software to enhance operations; provide direct delivery of fire safety education lessons to children pre-K through fifth-grade, adults in the workplace and youngsters court ordered to participate in the Juvenile Fire Setter education program. Also the department aims to provide citizens with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, workforce education opportunities and enhanced fire safety practices.

The department’s total budget for next year is about $5.38 million.

Police Chief Will Balling outlined the police department’s numerous goals and objectives for 2020, which includes providing administrative service to support the department, continued long-term leadership training and development of supervisors, continued policy and procedure development for all staff, to maintain compliance standards, continued community relations programs and continued work to reduce opioid and other drug use in the community.

Balling noted within the next eight years, he and all of the department’s captains will be retiring. They intend to prepare those moving up in ranks for the next level of their job. He also plans to reach out to recruit more bright, good quality employees for Sidney Police.

Next year the police department intends to implement the fire department’s new notification system, continue to improve customer service and staff training, and continue with the current successful community resources programs, including the Sidney Addict Assistance Team (SAAT).

Balling said they intend to improve intelligence sharing with all law enforcement in Shelby County, from the Sheriff’s Office to police departments in area villages. The department will also provide drug education, execute search warrants, review investigator performance and audit the property room to transition to a property room manager.

He said they plan to increase the use of bike patrol, improve community relations, increase traffic and parking enforcement. They also intend to try to reduce OVI-related crashes and support drug investigations, among other goals.

The department’s budget for next year is about $6.43 million.

This pie chart shows where general fund expenditures go in the Sidney city budget. pie chart shows where general fund expenditures go in the Sidney city budget.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.